Two Decades from Disaster? The IPCC's "Global Warming of 1.5° C." October 11, 2018.
International climate change agreements have long aimed at limiting anthropogenic global warming to 2°C Celsius, relative to so-called “pre-industrial” averages. Yet in early 2015, more than 70 scientists contributed to a report that warned about then-poorly understood dangers of warming short of 2° C. Several months later, Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) met in Paris and reached an agreement to keep global warming to “well below” 2° C. The Paris Agreement invited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to prepare a special Assessment Report. More
Is There a Better Way To Do Climate History? Testing a Quantitative Approach. August 31, 2018
Until recently, it was notoriously difficult to connect today’s extreme weather with the gradual trends of climate change. Scientists shied away from saying, for example, that catastrophic droughts or severe hurricanes reflected the influence of anthropogenic global warming. More
Are Woodland Caribou Doomed by Climate Change? July 26, 2018.
In May 2018, woodland caribou were declared functionally extinct in the United States. Across the Canadian north, woodland caribou have disappeared from roughly half their 19th century range. Is climate change dooming woodland caribou? Or are managers using climate change as an excuse to avoid making difficult policy decisions? More
A Conversation with Dr. Dagomar Degroot: Resilience and Adaptation in the Little Ice Age. June 15, 2018.
In the eighth episode of the Climate History Podcast, PhD candidate Robynne Mellor (Georgetown University) interviews Dr. Dagomar Degroot, director of HistoricalClimatology.com, about his new book: The Frigid Golden Age: Climate Change, the Little Ice Age, and the Dutch Republic, 1560-1720. Dr. Degroot is an assistant professor of environmental history at Georgetown University, where his research focuses on societal adaptation and resilience to climate change, and the environmental history of outer space. More
Ecological Militarism: The History of the Military’s Relationship with Climate Change. May 25, 2018.
Many historians have discussed the influence of the Cold War on the development of specific disciplines within the broader field of earth science. However, few have touched on U.S. military’s study of climate change, an interest that accelerated during the Cold War. The decades-long studies sponsored by the Departments of Defense and Energy in the Cold War produced led to many attempts to transform the earth itself into a political and environmental weapon. More
Introducing the Tipping Points Project. April 30, 2018.
In late 2016, Randall Bass, vice provost for education at Georgetown University, asked me to help design and teach a pilot project at Georgetown University that would experiment with a new way of introducing climate change to undergraduate students. The Core Pathway on Climate Change initiative, as we came to call it, allowed students to mix and match seven-week courses - "modules" - to find their own pathway through the scholarship of climate change. More
North Atlantic Right Whales From Their Medieval Past To Their Endangered Present. March 21, 2018.
2017 was a calamitous year for the North Atlantic right whale. The final count of the 2017 "Unusual Mortality Event" was eighteen animals. Fourteen North Atlantic right whales were found dead from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to Cape Cod between June and December, with an additional four strandings and entanglements through the year. More
A Frigid Golden Age: Can the Society of Rembrandt Teach Us About Global Warming? February 27, 2018.
Earth’s climate is changing with terrifying speed. Humanity has strengthened a greenhouse effect that has now warmed the planet by roughly one degree Celsius. The scale, speed, and causes of today’s global warming have no precedent, but of course natural forces have always changed Earth’s climate. We now know that these changes were big enough to shape the fates of past societies. Most confronted disaster, but a few seemed to prosper in spite of – and in some cases because of – climate changes. Perhaps the most successful of all emerged in the coastal fringes of the present-day Netherlands. More
Icebreaking in the Gulf of Bothnia: A Passenger’s Perspective. January 11, 2018.
This past winter I was fortunate to join the Arctia Otso icebreaker in the Gulf of Bothnia, Finland, from March 2 to March 24, 2017. I had sailed the Northwest Passage aboard the Canadian Coast Guard ships Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Louis S. St-Laurent in 2015. Going to Finland to travel on an icebreaker for 20 days was my next big step as a Canadian scientist. More
Looking Back, Looking Forward: A Historian Goes to COP23. December 21, 2017.
I joined the most recent UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn with a delegation from Monash University, which also included legal scholars, renewable energy specialists, and science communicators. The opportunity to observe and participate in the activities that accompany the negotiations was too good to pass up. More
Volcanoes, Climate Change, and Society: History and Future Prospects. November 30, 2017.
In June 1783, the residents of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, an Icelandic village, watched as the water of their local river Skaftá vanished and, days later, was replaced by a “fiery flood” of lava. They could not have imagined that this event would have consequences halfway around the globe, all the way to eastern Africa. More
New Worlds of Climate Change: The Little Ice Age and the Colonization of America. October 13, 2017.
In August 1559, the aspiring conquistador Tristán de Luna y Arellano brought some five hundred soldiers and a thousand colonists from New Spain to a settlement on Pensacola Bay, Florida, which he declared “the best port in the Indies.” The viceroy of New Spain reported to the king “the port is so secure that no wind can do them any damage at all.” Even as he wrote, a hurricane was entering the Caribbean, poised to devastate Puerto Rico. A week later, it roared into Pensacola Bay. Tristán de Luna had no experience of tropical storms that could overwhelm even the strongest harbors. More
Weather, Climate Change, and Inuit Communities in the Western Canadian Arctic. October 5, 2017.
Global climate change brings with it local weather that communities and cultures have difficulty anticipating. Unpredictable and socially impactful weather is having negative effects on the subsistence, cultural activities, and safety of indigenous peoples in Arctic communities. More
Europe’s Triumphs and Troubles Are Written in Swiss Ice. NY Times
The Perfect Storm: How Climate Change and Wall Street Almost Killed Puerto Rico. Rolling Stone
How Much Hotter is Your Hometown Than When You Were Born? NY Times
The Unlearned Lesson of Hurricane Maria: A Conversation with Stuart Schwartz. Edge Effects
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